Monthly Archives: July 2011

Issue of July 31, 2011

No question it’s Summer in the City for folks everywhere. If you are in the worst of it, be sure to take good care of yourself, your family, and your pets. And while you are sitting down, how about picking up a good book?

America is supposedly the land of free speech, but it doesn’t always work that way. Speaking your mind about important issues can wreck havoc with a professional career, especially if said career has any visible public issues. Pete Croatto reviews what happened to Paul Shirley, a popular sports columnist who expressed personal views that were not in proper alignment with the prevailing trend in The Cost of Free Speech.

In Picking a Subject: Part Two, Carl Rollyson continues his exploration of how he chooses his subjects for his biographies. It can sometimes be convoluted and complex route, but in the case of Rebecca West it also proved to be an especially sweet goal. And then there was his next subject . . .

How many people read or even attempt poetry, let alone Latin poetry? Seems dull? Perhaps not. Gillian Polack explores the “wonderful, witty” side of both the Arundel Lyrics and Hugh Primas’ poems in a superb new edition. She shares her passion for this unusual volume full of gifts and dreams (and erotica) in Hugh Primas and Friend.

It’s summer and August and wonderful. Lauren Roberts celebrates the beginning of a month away from work with a new wine, a favorite meal, and a new book in The Lazy, Crazy Daze of Summer.

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Moving On

Mr. Unhappy, the source of last week’s post, continues to remain unhappy. It still amazes me how some people become so obsessed with an issue that it dominates their lives and even precludes living. In this case, the man has taken offense to a book a family member wrote and has apparently dedicated the rest of his life to harrassing anyone who has reviewed it or otherwise written about it.

Not that it is doing him any good. He was not given space at BiblioBuffet, as he demanded, to put forth his arguments. His claim that he has enormous amounts of paperwork and files to back him up are of no importance and certainly of no interest. The man is, frankly, a bore and a jerk. And worse.

And I am amused that he continues to think I care. Or that I cared.

We will continue to review good books. And if they happen to be nonfiction, and if someone is unhappy with the author’s presentation … well, all those someones can continue to be unhappy in one another’s presence.  At BiblioBuffet, we are now moving on.

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Issue of July 4, 2011

Oh for a book and a shady nook, either indoor or out.
With the green leaves whispering overhead,
Or the street cries all about.
Where I may read all at my ease,
Both of the new and the old;
For a jolly good book whereon to look,
Is better to me than gold.

–John Wilson

Los Angeles is often thought of as always being there—big and dirty—but this week Laine Farley in, La Fiesta de Los Angeles, shows a bit of its unique history through a bookmark that celebrates the sesquicentennial of its founding in 1931. This was a major event for the city, one that lasted nine days and attracted both media attention and fair criticism for decisions made based on racial tensions.

Though the heat baking most of the country at the moment would make anyone shudder at the thought of wool, city girl Lindsay Champion spent the past couple of weeks reading a new “warm and fuzzy” memoir based on just that in Wooly Wisdom.

In a post-apocalyptic New York City, a man who calls himself Dewey Decimal takes charge of the New York Public Library and also rents himself out as a thug for what remains of the District Attorney’s office. Nicki Leone, in The Dewey Decimal “System,” reviews this new novel with an old theme and concludes that the character—and some of us occasionally—should just stay inside and read a book.

The growth of e-books is exploding and bringing with it numerous changes for publishers, authors, bookstores, readers—and used book sales as fundraising techniques for nonprofit organizations. What, Lauren Roberts wondered, will happen five or ten years from now? Will these sales disappear? Or will booklovers and booksellers still crowd them? What is certain is that The More Things Change, the More They (May Not) Remain the Same.

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Two things have happened in the last week that got my “grrr” factor going. The first was an e-mail from someone we will call “Mr. Unhappy.” And why was he unhappy? Because of a review that we ran. Oddly, it wasn’t even his book. The book, which will for the purposes of this column remain unnamed, got a fairly good review, but he was part of its subject matter. He didn’t like being part of it but when dysfunction runs in a family—and many families have this problem—and someone writes about it the likelihood is that members are going to be included.

Mr. Unhappy demanded that the review be taken down and an apology issued. Otherwise, he said, he would have no choice but to contact a lawyer. What Mr. Unhappy seems to have not realized is that what a family member says about another family member is an internal problem. When reviewers at BiblioBuffet review a book they talk about the book and its contents. They do not vet it for legal reasons—that’s a publisher’s responsiblility. They simply share their opinion as to whether the book is successful at what it is attemtping to do and whether it is worth reading. An opinion. Which they are entitled to have.

Mr. Unhappy’s claim that he has files of paperwork which dispute the author’s story is of no relevance to us. Mr. Unhappy’s belief that we should bow to his demands is ludicrous.  Mr. Unhappy’s belief that we will is . . . not correct.  

I hate bullies. I especially hate ignorant bullies who use silly threats to get their way. BiblioBuffet will never violate any legal standards nor will we violate our strong ethical ones. But we are an opinion site. The reviewers and editors of BiblioBuffet work to provide honest, forthright, and excellent reviews of books worth reading. If one of those books causes hurt to another that is something that needs to be addressed with the author and/or publisher. Not a review site.

The result? Mr.Unhappy is probably due to remain unhappy.  

* * *

The second incident that upped my “grrr” factor involved payment. Contribtors are paid on a monthly basis. I use my credit union’s services to send checks out. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from one contributor who had not yet received his check. An inquiry showed the check had been cashed, though not by him, so I contacted my credit union this morning. They credited my account and promptly began an investigation.

The contributor had, in the meantime, gone into the bank that had cashed the check—he also banks at a credit union, not a bank and certainly not this bank—and talked to the manager:

He kept saying, “Well it was a mistake” and I said, “Listen!  The check was in a sealed envelope addressed to me. It was sent to me and made out to me. Anyone opening the envelope is already breaking the law. And then depositing it?” 

 And why was he making excuses for the person who did it?

And in a subsequent e-mail:

I’m steaming and it’s not just the weather.

Every check coming in has to be surveyed, and if it’s not made out to the depositor, there has to be a valid signature. This “manager” was trying to act as if one of his clerks wasn’t responsible.

And he didn’t even apologize!

What if this was a scam, say, someone trying a check with a small amount first–?

Yes, things are being handled but it’s a mistake to mess with me, especially with something about which I am so protective. Mistakes are one thing; deliberate indifference is another. About the former I am very polite. I ask only that the mistake be corrected. About the latter . . . not so much. Threats, even less so.

BiblioBuffet is a labor of love. No less labor than love, and everyone who writes for it carries a passion and intensity for the site. No one messes with it. No one.


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Issue of July 17, 2011

I want to say “read away” because we have a truly wonderful issue of BiblioBuffet for you. This week you have the opportunity to learn how his subjects come to biographers; how history can work in fantasy; how one extraordinary man succeeded in life; how a character can take on a second life; and how travel can taste. We hope you enjoy it all.

How do biographers choose their subjects? It may be a common question, but it is a fascinating question for Carl Rollyson as he explores the journey he undertook from dissertation and an academic life to that of wide-ranging biographer of people as different as Marilyn Monroe and Lillian Hellman in Picking a Subject: Part One.

Can fantasy novels be based in history? Gillian Polack explores three new books that do use the backdrop of history for their stories yet, as she explores and explains, they “don’t focus on daily life nor even on the real politics of a place and time.” Rather, she finds “history is a backdrop for fantasy—with magic and daggers and death and gods and dragons” in Fiction and History Revisited.

Quiet politician, Rhodes scholar, superb athlete, extraordinary man. Pete Croatto looks backward in time to two first-rate books about Bill Bradley who “succeeded by being himself” in Extraordinarily Ordinary.

What do you do when an author you love writes something offensive? There’s always email, of course, but what if the author’s dead? Well, you can always write another book. That’s what Lev Raphael did in response to the anti-Semitism in The House of Mirth, and you may never look at her classic novel in the same way again in Solving My Edith Wharton Problem.

Heat does not a good companion make for Lauren Roberts. But good books always do, and this weekend she is using ice cream and D. H. Lawrence’s Sea and Sardinia to take her away from the heat in No Luggage Needed.

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Issue of July 10, 2011

Are you indulging yourself in freshly picked corn on the cob? Watermelon? Ice tea? Grilled chicken or portobello mushrooms? Are you also taking to your outdoor furniture, good book in hand? We hope so! And if you are looking for good online reading plus more recommendations for fine books, take some time to read us too.

Lindsay Champion, who loves New York as only someone who has lived there for a long time can., takes a look at a little publishing house that has reprinted three of the finest books about the “its constantly beating pulse” of New York City ever written in Writing New York.

Supermarkets are often thought of as modern developments, but their history—beginning with the first rural grocery stores in the nineteenth century—is vast and complex. Oddly, it was a bookmark for a community grocery market that led Lauren Roberts on a historical journey as she explored Marketing the Bookmark.

What does it take to spoil a book? Nicki Leone asks and answers that question for herself and her readers as she considers how she reviews books as both book reviewer and bookseller—and as a seductress and seductee in  What Does It Take to Spoil a Book?

Picking up a book and discovering not just a good reading experience but a fantastic one is like discovering treasure. It is treasure! Lauren Roberts shares one such book that is currently on her end table or nightstand when it isn’t in her hands (which it often is) in Birds of a Feather.

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When Less is More

BiblioBuffet has changed its Write for Us page. The reason? We are now closed to those who seek to be regular contributors, that is, writers who want to have a column. However, we are still open to guest contributors who want to submit pieces to BibliOpinions.

As you may know, Nicki Leone and I have full-time day jobs. BiblioBuffet must be produced in our free time, and there is only so much of that to go around. Especially in Nicki’s case, as she works more than one job. Nicki is the content editor behind what you read on BiblioBuffet, and she works hard at it. She works hand-in-hand with the contributors to ensure that their writing, already top-notch, is flawless.

I focus primarily on copy editing, proofreading, and posting. I also pay the bills. Since we do not accept advertising (yet), the money comes out of my pocket; there is only so much to go around.

These are both important reasons for closing our application process at this point in them, but there is one more reason. And it may be even more important. We don’t want to get too big. We want to keep the spotlight on the writers we have now because we believe we have some of the best. The larger a site grows and the more writers it has, the less opportunity each writer has to shine. And we think that would be a shame.

We hope you enjoy reading the wide variety we do offer: Carl Rollyson on biography, Pete Croatto on sports, Lindsay Champion on modern memoirs, Laine Farley on bookmarks, Lev Raphael on anything that catches his literary eye, Gillian Polack on science fiction, fantasy, science, and Australia-iana, and Nicki Leone on, well, on anything except self-help.

We believe that by having less we actually have more. We give you a good look at some damn good books through some damn good writers and we don’t worry that we cannot cover everything. 

Still, we are open to many things we do not cover regularly through our BibliOpinions page. That’s where you’ll find things you won’t find elsewhere on our site, and where writers who are looking to share their work can still come to be part of our team. And when we do open up again to new regular contributors we will look to our guest contributors first.

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